Amazon Shut Down Parler After Users Called for Politicians, Police to Be Killed: Lawsuit

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has said it suspended Parler's account as a "last resort" this week after the platform was deemed to be both "unwilling and unable" to address extremist speech, a new legal filing says.

The website hosting giant argued in response to a lawsuit submitted in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington by Parler on Monday that the social media platform failed to remove content that "threatens the public safety, such as by inciting and planning the rape, torture, and assassination of named public officials."

AWS said Parler's lawsuit was "no more than a meritless claim for breach of contract" and claimed it first contacted the site in mid-November 2020 and reported more than 100 examples of content "advocating violence" over the next seven weeks.

Allegedly in violation of AWS agreements, content flagged by Amazon included "dozens of examples of content that encouraged violence, including calls to hang public officials, kill Black and Jewish people, and shoot police officers in the head," AWS said.

AWS listed a handful examples of extremist speech it allegedly logged and forwarded to Parler, indicating the social network was well warned it was on shaky ground.

One post read: "We are going to fight in a civil War on Jan 20, Form MILITIAS now and acquire targets." Another read: "Shoot the police that protect these shitbag senators right in the head then make the senator grovel a bit before capping they ass."

Additional offending examples included violent threats against Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and at least one called for assassinations to take place on January 20, which is the date Joe Biden is set to be inaugurated.

Led by CEO John Matze, Parler was pitched an alternative to Twitter that would protect free speech of users while taking a more lax approach to moderation.

It surged in popularity in recent months, embraced by Republican politicians and right wing personalities, topping the iOS and Android mobile app stores in the U.S.

It was removed from the Google Play Store and App Store last weekend for hosting user content with the potential to cause harm or incite violence—a move that came after a large mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.—a violent siege that resulted in five deaths, including a city police officer.

Staring at enforcement that would effectively ban Parler from the internet, its founders filed a lawsuit accusing AWS of breaching contract and being anti-competition.

According to AWS, Parler had admitted before being suspended that it had a backlog of 26,000 reports of content that violated its community standards, and AWS asserted the platform's own failures had left "little choice but to suspend Parler's account."

The AWS filing directly cited the U.S. Capitol siege, saying: "Compelling AWS to host Parler content would threaten the safety of individuals. This risk is not speculative. The violence at the U.S. Capitol was assisted by content posted by Parler users.

"Forcing Amazon to host such content poses further risk, including at the inauguration next week. Such a requirement also poses a risk to Amazon itself, with posts calling for others to 'burn down Amazon delivery trucks' until they 'reverse course.'"

Despite initially claiming the website could only be offline for about a week, Parler CEO Matze has since confirmed that, without AWS, it could remain offline for a long time. If it does return, users may have already moved on, he noted in the Parler filing.

"Parler has tried to find alternative companies to host it and they have fallen through. It has no other options. Without AWS, Parler is finished," he wrote.

He added: "If Parler is not available, people will turn to alternatives, or perhaps return to Twitter or Facebook. What is more, Parler's current users are likely to leave and go to another platform if Parler is down for an indefinite period. And once those users have begun to use another platform, they may not return to Parler once it's back online."

Parler app on mobile phone
A general view of the the Parler app icon displayed on an iPhone on January 9, 2021 in London, England. The Parler App popular with right-wing supporters was suspended from Google and Apple's app stores over continued postings by users that incite violence. Hollie Adams/Getty